Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Let's go for a quick paddle on the river, it'll be fun!", she said...

We made some new friends at the campground in Gorham, NH. It shouldn't surprise anyone that our dogs hit it off and became besties first, and after a successful day hike and a beautiful sunset paddle together, we made plans for a paddle down the river.

They talked me into leaving the stand-up paddleboard behind and borrowing their extra kayak, so all four of us could paddle together.

We left a car at the landing spot and put in on the Androscoggin River just past Milan. The plan was to float down the river for a little bit. Honestly, it didn't seem that far when we were all riding and chatting our way up to the launching spot. Oh how the miles can fly by when you aren't paying attention!

We pushed off the river's edge and were greeted by floating fields of lily pads.  The river slowly wound its way East (yes that still feels backwards to me) and we floated along peacefully, chatting and occasionally swatting. The sun was bright, I was glad we'd covered in sunblock and bugspray.

Hour 1: I'm in love with this beautiful river, peaceful and lonely, I'm sure glad I put on the sunblock and bugspray. The flowers along the shoreline are colorful and bring floral scents to us on a light breeze. As we paddle and drift dreamily by I imagine what it would be like to live here and debate the pros/cons of having property on this side or that side of the river.

Hour 2: Look at that cute little turtle on the shoreline!  I need more sunblock, time to re-apply, my pasty white arms haven't seen enough sun this year to prepare for this. Where did that wind come from? It's good I left the stand-up paddleboard, it isn't likely I could have pushed against this wind. Why is the dog whining? At least for her I packed plenty of water. It's sure pretty here. Hey check out that cool bird!

Hour 3: Sure am glad I put on the bug spray. I need more sunblock, time to re-re-apply. That wind is getting stiff. Why is this river sooooo slow? I probably should have eaten a real breakfast this morning. My arms are getting tired and my butt is starting to complain. At least if I shift around often I can occasionally restore feeling to my legs. The dog is still whining, I've given up trying to guess at why.

Hour 4: Holy hell where are we? We are never going to get there, I should have studied that map more carefully, and I definitely should've packed snacks and more water. We're going to starve to death out here if I don't become a baked lobster or burst into flames first. I have lost sensation from the waist down and my fingers are blistering. The wind is whipping up little whitecaps for us to row against, in fact I'm pretty sure if I stop rowing I'll get pushed back UP the river. I briefly consider clawing my way up the riverbank to die of sun exposure on the shore. I hate every piece of abandoned property along the river's edge - seriously, where are all the #&**# people in this Godforsaken countryside!? The dog's whining is starting to really get on my nerves; in hindsight, she may have seen this coming.

Hour 5: I'm having an out-of-body experience. Yes in my new life here on the river I will try to catch fish and if I don't have any luck I will eat that dog, that's one sure way to stop her whining. I find myself casually wondering how long to cook a dog before she's edible... Hey wait, hold up! That's a landmark I recognize. We just might make it after all! I can probably stop regretting the life insurance policy I forgot to buy... Oh, hey, there's the landing spot. Wasn't that fun?

Towards the beginning of our 7-mile paddle, and before the 20 knot winds kicked up

Absolutely, let's definitely do this again sometime!

Come on legs, time to get out. Legs?!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fake it 'til you make it!

This is the one year anniversary of being on the road. Shawna, Chloe, Starfish, Stewie, and I pulled away from our house July 17, 2017 after shakedown cruises to Pismo Beach, Northern California, and Utah

Our path has been North to Oregon, South through California, SouthEast through Arizona, New Mexico, East along the Gulf coast through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South to the Florida Keys, North to Georgia, North Carolina (skipped South Carolina for some reason), Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, we are currently in New Hampshire starting our trek West. 

When this started it felt disingenuous at best to describe ourselves as "Full Time" nomads. After a year when I'm asked where I'm from, I'm comfortable telling them "here." When they if I'm retired I say "No, I'm a photographer." The first time I said "I'm from here." It felt a little strange. Are we homeless? Houseless? Do they think we live in this particular campground year-round? Now having met dozens of fellow nomads it feels natural. 

When I was a working stiff I categorized people into one of three groups, Big Brain on a stick (people who were paid for what they know), Asses in a seat (people that need to be onsite to solve problems or serve the customer) and Talent (artistic types that suckered their way into a job). I've always been an Ass in a Seat guy, fixing things that break, maintenance, work a shift/go home guy. Now I'm calling myself a photographer, moving from Ass in a Seat to Talent. Surprise! It ain't as easy as I thought. I went to school to repair video cameras but had limited experience operating one.

I was thinking about that this morning as I was trying to think of something to write for this blog. I remembered an essay I read by one of my favorite authors Captain Fatty Goodlander. To sum it up: Captain Fatty, a man with only four or five years of formal schooling, wanted to be an author. He set a goal of 100 rejection letters in a year and started writing. Years later he has written a dozen or so books, and numerous magazine articles.  He uses the money he earns to travel the world on S/V Ganesh his Wauquiez  Amphitrite.  Here is a link to the article from Fatty, inspirational stuff.

If Captain Fatty can do it so can I. I am a Photographer! I will have one thousand photos on my stock photo site and one hundred videos this year. I'm going to keep trying til I get it right.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

White Mountains, New Hampshire - Proud Record Holder of the Worst Weather in the World, and Probably the Worst Internet Access, too

We heard some of the best fireworks on the East Coast could be found in Gorham, New Hampshire. It's at the foot of the White Mountains, a motorcycle mecca, so that works for us.

First on the to-do list, pick a spot with decent cell coverage so I can work. Tricky, this close to the mountain.  Sprint reported no coverage whatsoever and AT&T admitted theirs was spotty, but Verizon's map reported excellent coverage at White Birches campground just outside of town so I booked the site. In reality the coverage was dismal; slow when we could get it at all, and randomly it would shut off and on throughout the workday. We called Verizon to find out why the website and reality were so maligned and they sent someone out to check it, and confirmed it was "suboptimal" but offered no excuse for it or any hope that it would get better.  Now I distrust Verizon's coverage maps.

Here are the actual speed tests:

The strategy I ended up developing was to use the park Wi-Fi when the other campground guests were sleeping, and otherwise work at the Gorham City Library where they graciously allowed me to take over a quiet corner and work unmolested on their super-fast internet (it's important to note here, if this is a lifestyle you are considering, that a good VPN is mandatory to keep your data safe from prying eyes). And undoubtedly there's nothing quite like spending time at a library to show you a good cross-section of the local population.

Anyways, getting back to Gorham...
The fireworks were indeed pretty awesome. The town celebrations lasted a full 6 days, complete with a traveling carnival and live music.
Fresh raspberry pie
Rural America at its finest - the holiday parade
included a tractor brigade

The centerpiece of the White Mountains National Forest is Mount Washington, proud record holder of the world's highest winds @231 mph. There are earnest meteorology students here 24/7 - this is the spot where three major storm patterns regularly converge. Even on our tour day in early July, when the foot of the mountain was a balmy and calm 65, the top of the mountain was a bone-chilling 29 degrees with winds gusting to 40mph. There were sobering cairns marking spots where hikers had died over the years, mostly due to hypothermia, one less than two hundred yards from the hotel at the summit.

This coal-fired steam engine took us to the mountaintop, the other engines of the Cog Mountain Railway are eco-friendly biodiesel

The view out the window down the mountain behind us

We took the easy route and rode the Cog Mountain Railway to the mountaintop. At one point the grade is just over 37 degrees. It took us an hour to reach the top.

This is what it looks like when you rest the camera on the window sill and shoot out at the passing buildings. The building is level, our train was climbing past it at about 34 degrees

It really messes with your head

The motorcycle roads of the White Mountains are epic, but most of the bikes we see are Harleys or heavy cruisers. We'll do the cruiser roads too, but in the meantime I also received some off road route suggestions that are begging for further investigation. Speed limits are nearly impossible to comply with in this area so we'll have to be especially wary.